Mountain hiking is an ideal activity for those who lack outdoorsy physical exercises, yet don't like sports which require quick outbursts of energy and excessive sweating. It is also an ideal way to recharge your batteries and make you feel like a brand new person after having a stressful week at work. Taking some time away from the noisy and busy urban life to enjoy fresh air, green landscapes and peace of mountains will feel almost like a spiritual experience. If you decide to take up hiking, there are still some things you are better off knowing in advance, before you are forced to learn them the hard way.
No, there isn’t a dress code when going on a mountain, but to make your trip easier and more comfortable, you should know what kind of shoes and clothes to acquire. Shoes are by far the most important part of your equipment-if you choose a wrong type, you may never want to hike again. Ideally, you should buy trekking shoes. They are made for this purpose and are definitely worth the money-most hikers would argue that few other types have a better price-to-quality ratio. Trekking shoes are strong, durable and made of special materials which allow your feet to breath, yet keep them dry in rain and snow. They are also very comfortable, which is of the utmost importance if you don't want to end up with lots of nasty callosities. Avoid your regular shoes or sneakers (especially those with thin soles, such as All Stars). You'll be walking over rocks so expect to have your shoes scratched. Another important piece of clothing is a jacket. While it is hard to say what is an ideal jacket for hiking, a general rule is that it should be neither too heavy nor too light, but it is absolutely necessary to be both windproof and waterproof. Don't worry if it is not too warm, you can always add extra clothes underneath. Speaking of extra layers, it is a good idea to wear active underwear. It is made out of two layers - the inner layer, which fits close to the skin, collects the sweat while the outer layer prevents it from wetting the rest of your clothes and at the same time it lets the air through thus drying it while you're still wearing it. As far as the rest of the clothes are concerned, natural wool is probably the best material - it is warm and dries easily, unlike cotton, which takes forever to dry.
There are lots of other things which are not necessary, yet may come in handy and don't take up a lot of space. A good hiking backpack is one of them, since it has more space and can withstand more weight than a regular school backpack. If you're only going for recreational hiking, without anything too extreme, there's no need to buy anything bigger than 45l, it will also be enough for few-day trips and camping. Trekking poles, if used properly, can support up to 30% of your total weight. They also provide extra stability and have multiple features that make them very useful. You should always have a rain suit in your backpack since weather on higher altitudes is very unpredictable and can change in a matter of minutes. It is advisable to carry a small medical kit with adhesive bandages and adhesive tape, small scissors, and some painkillers (sometimes you may experience a slight headache due to atmospheric conditions). The same goes for a flashlight and a small multipurpose pocket knife. During winter, a balaclava (a close-fitting cap which covers most of your face), waterproof gloves and gaiters are a must. If there is sunlight, use sunscreen regardless of the season since mountain tops have a very high UV index value.
No matter how much time you plan to spend outside, you should have some food in your backpack. Don't take anything that requires additional preparation or a long time to consume - what you need is food that provides energy boosts and can be eaten quickly when you sit down to take a break. It's fine to have a couple of sandwiches since you'll be burning off more calories than you are consuming, but you should prefer fruit and energy bars. Bananas are probably the best option, since they do not only provide a good amount of energy, but also soak up excess water thus preventing diarrhea, which is probably the most uncomfortable issue you can get while hiking. For this reason, you should also pay attention to what you eat before starting your trip, here you can find more information on which foods are a good choice to prevent and treat diarrhea. You'll need plenty of water, especially in the summer. Avoid drinking soda or alcohol, since their liquid state may be misleading-they will actually dehydrate you.